Tag Archives: Mr Saxon

Can You Hear the Drums?

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When Doctor Who returned two years ago, outside the basics, the team behind the programme seemed to quite deliberately avoid too many references to the old series. Wind forward to the present series and the situation is almost the reverse. Following on from the sight of images of all the previous faces of the Doctor in Human Nature, to the voices heard by Professor Yana in Utopia last week, we get a positive overdose of fan pleasing moments in the first part of the finale, The Sound of Drums.

Taking the plot first of all, it is all a relatively straightforward affair. The Doctor repairs Captain Jack’s vortex manipulator allowing them to escape. Whilst the Doctor had been unable to stop the Master escaping at the end of Utopia, he had managed to jam the TARDIS controls causing it to return to the same place it left – twenty-first century Earth. However they quickly realise that the Master has returned somewhat earlier, and that the mysterious Mr Saxon is in fact the Master – the mysterious Mr Saxon who has just been elected Prime Minister.

The Master is working with a race of aliens that he calls the Toclafane – although the Doctor believes this to be a made up name. The Master has also prepared traps for the Doctor, and has arrested Martha’s family. He has managed to win the election through the mobile phone network – the same technique that he has used to hide from the Doctor over the preceding months.

The Doctor and his companions manage to sneak onto the secret UNIT airship where the Master is to reveal the Toclafane to the world. However they fail to stop the Master’s plan, indeed the Master uses technology created by Professor Lazarus to age the Doctor, and incapacitates Jack, with only Martha managing to escape. The Master uses the TARDIS – which he has significantly modified and cannibalised, to open a rift and let in the Toclafane – ordering them to immediately destroy one tenth of the population of the world.

Alongside the main plot, there were a lot of back story and references, some very definitely for the fans. Chief among them is an explanation of how the Master comes to be alive and able to regenerate in the first place. Back in the TV Movie the Master manages to escape extermination by the Daleks but has to take over a human ambulance driver to do so. With his new human body decaying, he tries to take over the Doctor, but in the final climactic battle is sucked into the Eye of Harmony at the heart of the TARDIS. During the course of tonight’s episode we find out that during the Time War the Time Lords resurrected him in order to fight, giving him a new life-cycle much as was promised to him for helping the Time Lords in the Five Doctors. However, having been present during a key battle he fled and hid, using the Chameleon Arch to hide his identity. This explanation throws up interesting questions about what involvement the Doctor had in the Time War as he was unaware of the Master being resurrected, perhaps implying that the Doctor only becomes involved later on, after the Master has fled.

There are also several moments that hark back to well remembered Master scenes – for example at one point the Master is seen watching the Teletubbies, harking back to a scene in the Sea Devils when the Master is seen watching The Clangers.

Perhaps the biggest moment from a fan point of view is the first appearance of Gallifrey and of the Time Lord’s themselves as the Doctor describes the origin of the Master. Thanks to modern CGI, we see a panning shot from snowy mountains towards the gleaming Time Lord citadel covered by it’s protective dome. We also see a young Master surrounded by Time Lords, staring into the abyss of the time vortex. There is a definite effort to ramp up the Time Lord mythology, with the sequence reminding me very much of the epic style of movies such as the Lord of the Rings. From comments made by Russell T in the subsequent Doctor Who Confidential the return of the Master was on his list to do, and he implies that there are other things still to do – a return for Gallifrey and the Time Lord’s? Next weeks episode is called The Last of the Time Lords – whether this is because the Doctor has to destroy the Master, or is ironic due to the Doctor rediscovering his people remains to be seen.

It wasn’t only Time Lord references. After the Master has announced to the world that he is going to make first contact, the President of the United States arrives to take over control with UNIT citing that thanks to an agreement in 1968 – a reference to the episode The Web of Fear. Amusingly, considering that the real United Nations has asked that it’s name not be used in reference to UNIT, there were a number of points in the episode where the two organisations were referred to closely together, without ever explicitly stating what the acronym stood for! Having said that, the big budget has also extended to UNIT, with their base of operations this time being The Valiant, a vast airborne aircraft carrier, designed in part by the Master.

However, I’m suspecting that maybe not all the changes will be so welcome. Probably chief amongst the complaints will be the character of the Master, who is even more insane than he has been on previous appearances. Whilst at times there are elements of the dark and brooding character of before, at others he is cracking jokes, and being almost comic, showing many of the traits of David Tennant’s interpretation of the Doctor that so infuriate elements of fandom. John Simm mentions in his Doctor Who Confidential interview that he played the part exactly as written, perhaps passing the buck somewhat in advance of criticisms from the long term fans. Having said that, whose to say that being resurrected and then being long term disguised as a human didn’t unhinge him significantly?

So what is coming up next week? The trailer implies that there is a resistance movement to the Toclafane – but really I’m expecting that that is only going to be a small part of what is going to happen. Return of the Time Lords? We’ll have to wait and see…

Continuity Error? Or Something Else…

Watching Doctor Who didn’t seem to do anything to resolve the apparent continuity error between End of Days and Captain Jack turning up at the beginning of Utopia.

This You Tube video highlights the issues:

If anything tonight’s episode adds more to the error as during Utopia it transpires that Jack is carrying the Doctor’s hand in his bag – and yet as the camera pulls back at the end of End of Days, the Doctor’s hand is still sitting in the hub.

There has been quite a bit of speculation as to whether the TARDIS appearing at the start of Utopia and Captain Jack leaving in End of Days are the same, or different events. I was leaning towards them being the same event, but with a continuity hiccup between the two series. However with the Master taking the TARDIS at the end of Utopia, which includes the container with the Doctor’s hand – plus the knowledge that the Master is Mr Saxon and has been around for a while on Earth, maybe Gwen’s line at the end of End of Days is absolutely right – he has been taken, deceived by the the Doctor’s hand reacting to the presence of itself – and the Captain Jack who climbs aboard the TARDIS in Utopia is a future Jack

Of course, it could just be one great big continuity mistake, but with the somewhat intricate plotting that Russell T puts in place for these story arcs – references to Mr Saxon go right back to Love and Monsters – I’d be surprised if he let such a significant continuity error through.

Suddenly Human

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One of the favourite techniques used by regular weekly shows is to have an episode that plays with the underlying concept, so for example we have the Mirror Universe stories in Star Trek, or stories such as Superman II where the hero either looses or gives up his powers. Doctor Who has done similar concept breaking episodes at times in it’s history, and this week was one of those times, where we had a story where the Doctor wasn’t himself – indeed he wasn’t even the same race – as in order to hide from a group of aliens referred to initially only as ‘the Family’ he uses a device in the TARDIS called the Chameleon Arch that creates a new character and biology for him, allowing him to hide. His Timelord persona is safely stored away in a device disguised as a pocket watch ready for when he is able to come out of hiding.

The episode, Human Nature is based on the 1995 book of the same name, however whilst a number of plot elements and character names are reused, the plot is somewhat changed. The basic concept of the Doctor becoming human, and the main location as an English public school in the winter before the Great War are retained, but characters are changed. For example the widow Joan Redfern who falls in love with Doctor John Smith becomes a nurse in the TV episode, whilst in the book she is a science teacher. The reason for the Doctor becoming human is different than in the book too.

The episode operated on many levels. On the surface you have the story of the Doctor hiding from aliens who need the last of the Timelords, however as Beth pointed out in many ways it is a tragic story. Alongside the simple surface story one of the boys, Tim, appears to have telepathic powers and can see the future. Whilst these are partly in the main plot to allow him to see visions of Martha’s real life, he also at times gets premonitions of the impending war, including his death alongside a fellow boy from the school in an attack. There is also an element of tragedy surrounding Joan Redfern, who having lost her first husband is attracted to Doctor John Smith, but who you ultimately know will loose him as the personality and life are artificially generated and will disappear when the Doctor regains his previous character.

The episode is also a great opportunity for Freema Agyeman to shine as Martha Jones. Doctor John Smith obviously doesn’t remember who she really is, and believes she is just his maid. Whilst the Doctor is blissfully unaware, except through strange dreams, of his true identity, she is tasked with keeping him safe, and if something goes wrong bringing him back, her only guide being a list of instructions that the Doctor has left behind in the TARDIS, also hidden away so as not to attract attention.

Quite aside from having a great multi-layered plot, we also have some nice moments for the fans. Doctor John Smith has been keeping a journal of his strange dreams, and as he shows Joan the notebook, we see pictures he has drawn of creatures from the new series, but then for the first time an on screen acknowledgement of the previous series with the journal including images of many of the previous Doctor’s. Later on when Doctor John Smith is talking about his family he mentions that his parents are called Sydney and Verity, acknowledgement of Sydney Newman the Canadian TV producer who created Doctor Who, and Verity Lambert it’s first producer.

All in all I thought it was one of the best episodes of the new series, nicely evoking the atmosphere of the period, along with some scary badies whose traits were more unnerving compared to the cringe-making give-away of the Slitheen. Amongst all of that you also had a noticeably different character in Doctor John Smith at the centre, who even when he is confronted by the badies in the cliff-hanger, still can’t remember who he is. Great stuff, and I’m now really looking forward to the conclusion next week. Hints about that episode seem to imply that ‘the Family’ are part of a bigger plan. Part of the Mr Saxon story arc? We’ll have to wait and see.

Burn In Me

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So after a break for last week for Eurovision, Doctor Who was back this week with their take on a real-time episode, 42, where the Doctor has a mere 42 minutes to save a spaceship from crashing into a star.

Behind the Sofa, the Doctor Who review blog site posted an item last week entitled 42 seconds, pointing out that thanks to the TARDIS the plot should really be very simple, so as always, they need a plot device early on to take the TARDIS out of play. Indeed when the time travellers first meet the spaceship crew the Doctor heads for the TARDIS before discovering that he cannot re-enter the area where the ship has landed due to the heat – heat which will only increase as the spaceship heads closer to the star. Whatever happens, they have to get the ship away from the star.

To add to the crisis, the main engines have been sabotaged, and the ship has been put into lockdown, closing and sealing all the thirty odd doors along the length of the ship to the controls that might save them. The doors all have deadlock seals rendering the sonic screwdriver unable to help, and alongside this the ship has a security system that asks security questions worthy of a pub quiz in order to open each door.

Just to cap it all off, some strange creature is infecting the crew and killing other crew members.

Although the ship in crisis plot has been done before, the episode was generally entertaining, and maintained the tension well. This was definitely from the grungy industrial school of spaceship design too. You knew the crew were dodgy right from the first moment you meet them when they ask whether the Doctor and Martha are police. It transpires later on that they have been illegally scooping fuel from the star, without realising that the star is actually alive – which is now protecting itself, trying to regain the part of itself that has been scooped in to the ship to use as fuel.

The episode marks a return to the directors chair for longtime Doctor Who director Graeme Harper, who keeps the episode ticking along at quite a pace. Perhaps the only point where it seems forced is the moment where the Doctor, who is fighting being taken over by the sun creature, asks Martha to use a stasis machine to save him by freezing him to -200 for ten seconds. Once he’s explained this there is a moment where rather than getting on and saving him, Martha has a speech, which gives the bad guys just enough time to turn off the power, and leave the Doctor with seemingly no hope.

Alongside all of this, we also saw some more development of the Mr Saxon story. In the Lazarus Experiment we saw Martha’s Mum being warned about the Doctor by a strange man, who we find out at the end of the episode is working for Mr Saxon. During the course of 42, Martha uses her newly enhanced mobile phone to phone home three times, and we see more strange people in the background apparently trying to trace the call. At the end of the episode it is again revealed that they work for Mr Saxon, and in a follow on from the Vote Saxon posters that have been around, it is election day too. Whether we’ll see more of this plot-line building over the next few weeks I don’t know, but somehow from what I know of the plot of the much anticipated Human Nature next week, I’m not sure it will quite fit in.

Although there have been episodes I haven’t liked, so far this season there haven’t been any I’ve really loathed. I had question marks over 42 in my mind, party because of the absolutely dreadful Chris Chibnall Torchwood episode Countrycide. However, I’m glad to say I was pleasantly surprised. Hopefully the enjoyment and appreciation will continue with the later episodes as we have some pretty eagerly anticipated episodes coming up, particularly Human Nature next week. Quite how the story will work putting the tenth Doctor into a story originally built around the scheming seventh Doctor of the New Adventures – hopefully Paul Cornell will have managed to retain the elements of the story that make it so popular with long time fans, whilst making it accessible and believable as a tenth Doctor TV story. Interestingly, the eBook version of Human Nature on the BBC website is currently disabled, hopefully it will be back following the showing of the episode, as it will certainly be an interesting exercise to compare the two stories and see where things have changed.